Stuck in Bangkok for a week and I couldn’t be happier

I am SO excited for India! But unfortunately I will have to wait…The India visa process takes a week and to my chagrin, I had to delay my flight until next Monday. It also means that my time in Bangkok has been extended to a week. As you may remember from my very first post in Southeast Asia when I got the hell out of Bangkok after staying less than 6 hours, Bangkok was not my city of choice. Lucky for me, however, I have discovered that I do like Bangkok! I feel bad for not giving it a fair chance, dismissing it as a hedonistic playground for fat westerners seeking massages with happy endings, after only spending time in the gentrified backpacker ghetto.
Khao San Road at dusk

Khao San Road at dusk

But Bangkok is so much more than that, a sprawling, diverse city on the cusp of the first world, contemporary high rises butt-up against historical architectural wonders, a burgeoning arts and music scene, international cuisine, pockets of immigrants and expats in various neighborhoods. And like many cities that I have found on the fringes of Westernization, the odd oxymoron of increasing fast food joints alongside the growing diet products and advertisements. I’ve never seen a place where such a vast smorgasbord of identities clashes with one another: stepping out of a skyscraper luxury mall full of skin-whitened Thai women holding Louis Vuitton bags to behold an ancient temple reverberating with chanting monks; the bright street tuk-tuks rattling by underneath the superfuture-esque Skytrain; the Wall-street like pace of the Silom business district where bankers work ’round the clock versus the laissez-faire attitude of the tapioca dessert-stand lady who also works ’round the clock.

A myriad of identities in modern Bangkok as depicted at the Thailand Creative Design Center

A myriad of identities in modern Bangkok as depicted at the Thailand Creative Design Center

 

A high schooler expresses his individuality in his school uniform by sporting a 'fro and vintage kicks at the luxury Siam Paragon mall

A high schooler expresses his individuality in his school uniform by sporting a 'fro and vintage kicks at the luxury Siam Paragon mall

The JJ weekend market draws all kinds of creative types. By that I mean, Thai hipsters.

The JJ weekend market draws all kinds of creative types. By that I mean, Thai hipsters.

Some of my Thai hippie friends. They brought me fresh fruit every morning and Thai whiskey at night.

Some of my Thai hippie friends. They brought me fresh fruit every morning and Thai whiskey at night.

I’m able to go on my favorite kind of walk here- the kind where you can purposely get lost and watch all the strangeness around you, finding something completely unexpected around each corner, walking for an entire day totally entertained with no particular destination. The art is on the streets.

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Bangkok glimmers and screeches with bright colors and poppy music. Even the temples shine like tinsel-clad fake Christmas trees in comparison with the ancient wats in Cambodia and Laos. The taxicabs are hot pink, bright orange, lime green, and neon purple. The aesthetics are dizzying. I am impressed with the art scene in Bangkok. Design schools, centers, and galleries are abound, and Bangkok turns out to be a great city to view contemporary art by local artists and designers. Thakoon, a Michelle Obama fashion label favorite, is Thai after all.

A local design students' latest creations

A local design student's latest creations on display at the weekend market. Sigh...when dreams were made of gold...

I’ve also found myself in a rather unlikely living situation. I discovered a little artist enclave, near the river and down some tiny alleys in the Boho Bangkok neighborhood of Banglamphu, a sort of Williamsburg-Brooklyn-in-the-late-’90’s area. It’s on a river like the East River: brown, polluted, and across from skyrises…reminds me of home…I’ve found refuge here, waking up and meditating on the water, watching tugboats tugging Thai exports along the river.

Rearranging the props in my room for Feng Shui

Rearranging the props in my room for Feng Shui

Chanon painting in his studio

Chanon painting in his studio

The power went out so we created this man in the candlelight on the bamboo mat

The power went out so we created this man in the candlelight on the bamboo mat

Where I lived this week: the creative spirit has been unleashed at last!

Where I lived this week: the creative spirit has been unleashed at last!

meditating out the studio window at night

meditating out the studio window at night

So the lengthy Indian Visa process was a blessing in diguise. I feel surprisingly relaxed in Bangkok in this creative atmosphere reeking of oil paint and incense, where I have created a home on a bamboo mat for a week. It’s nice to feel this vague familiarity on the other side of the world.

I also got a facial. It was my first one and I am not a diva that needs that kind of pampering…but every day I passed by Angela’s Beauty to get my Thai coffee and the Thai receptionist would yell out that I needed a facial because of what the humidity and heat had done to my face. For $8? Fine. Even though my skin is going to be totally wrecked again in India. It’s 105 degrees Fahrenheit in Kolkata right now.

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~ by ceciliabien on June 21, 2009.

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